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Pilot reported plane had engine problems before safely landing on Quinnipiac River in Connecticut

Plane crews pulled out of the Quinnipiac River from last night’s crash landing.Matt McFarland/WSFB

Federal officials are investigating after a single-engine plane bound for New Bedford landed on the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, Connecticut, on Thursday.

The pilot, two passengers, and a dog were able to get out of the plane on their own and were not injured, officials said. They were assisted by a good Samaritan in a boat who managed to reach the plane before first responders arrived.

The pilot had reported problems with the plane’s engine before he landed the aircraft on the water just north of the Grand Avenue Bridge, around 5:20 p.m. Thursday, officials said. The location is a few miles north of Tweed New Haven Airport.


“Obviously, it was a very difficult situation for him, and I think he made a very good decision and he landed that plane in the river, which is not an easy thing to do,” Sean Scanlon, executive director at the airport, said at a press briefing Thursday evening, according to video from WTNH-TV News 8.

“It looks like it was a mechanical issue,” New Haven Director of Emergency Operations Rick Fontana said at the briefing. “The individuals were flying at about 7,000 feet when they experienced a sputtering in the engine and notified the tower that [they] were unable to make it back to the airport.”

The New Haven Fire Department was working Friday morning to remove the plane, Assistant Fire Chief Justin McCarthy said in an e-mail. On Thursday, firefighters used airbags, typically used for moving sunken boats, to lift the plane off a sandbar and move it to a nearby dock.

McCarthy said the plane’s landing did not cause any significant environmental damage. He said the plane was carrying about 40 gallons of fuel but none leaked out.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to the scene Thursday but did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday.


The incident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, officials said.

The plane, a fixed-wing single-engine Beech A36, was manufactured in 1988 and is registered under an Ohio-based company called MTB Flyers LLC, according to records. It was last certified in March 2021.

The plane had taken off from Woodbine Municipal Airport in Woodbine, New Jersey, at 4:12 p.m. and was scheduled to land at New Bedford Regional Airport at 5:54 p.m., according to FlightAware.

Officials did not identify the pilot or passengers.

“The most important part of the story is that everyone is safe,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said at the Thursday briefing.

Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.